Sunday, March 1, 2015

Faith and Simplicity vs. Neo-Gnosticism of Modernity

The greatest obstacle to the union between faith and enlightened culture...cannot be reduced to a romantic nostalgia but, rather, finds its nourishment in the roots of faith itself and is as old as the first encounter between faith and enlightened culture. On the threshold of the modern age, the Imitation of Christ voices a dramatic protest against the disintegration of faith into a theology that had become empty learning and the determined option for a Christianity of the unlearned:

"Let it be our highest study to become absorbed in meditation on the life of Jesus Christ." I,1,3

"Even if you knew by heart the whole Bible and the sayings of all the philosophers, what would it profit you without the love of God and his grace?" I,1,10

"Everyone has a natural craving for knowledge, but of what avail is knowledge without the fear of God?" I,2,1

"An unlearned person who serves God is surely better than a learned one who proudly searches the heavens while neglecting himself."

I,2,2 "Give up your excessive desire for learning. Therein are to be found only illusion and inner emptiness." I,2,5

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, 335

[But, the rational element is essential, among other things, for the communication of the faith to others. Love of neighbor cannot ignore the most urgent need of the neighbor, which is the need for the truth. Intellectual charity is essential to charity. What is more, our teaching {and our Teacher} is a Person, a divine Person, the Logos.]

Faith, as the New Testament understands it, is more than a fundamental trust; it is my Yes to a content that compels my belief. The existence of this content is a structural constituent of Christian faith, because he whom we believe is not just any man but the Logos, the Word of God, in whom is contained the meaning of the world--its truth.
Christian faith is word-oriented. In this it differs from the opinion held by many Gnostics that what is final is, not the world, but silence--that there is no access to what is last and deepest. The confession of Jesus Christ as Logos (Word) means that in him God himself is revealed, the truth of all things. Christian faith is thus at once more optimistic and more radical not only than the intellectual world of the modern era, which regards the question of truth as something almost improper and, in any event, as highly unscientific and unintellectual. Only those systems that are "right" in themselves, that are "in tune", can be affirmed, but truth--it remains hidden. The only thing we must ask about or that can be of interest to us is the effect, the advantage or disadvantage, of a particular piece of knowledge. All that counts is praxis; it alone is the "truth" that is fitting for man. I believe that the meaning of Christian naivete and its foundation are to be found here--in the fact that it is not hostile to learning but oriented to it. Christian naivete consists in holding fast to the question of truth and referring learning to truth. If it fails to do so, it becomes indeed soulless and dangerous--we all know this and have experienced it.
Principles, 337-38

Cf. On the centrality of truth  in civil society see: Benendict XVI Address to the German Parliament 22, September 2011
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